Hospital execs: How to widen the digital front door

Information and medical leaders from three health systems recently discussed how technology is changing the way patients access care during a panel titled: "Telehealth as the new digital front door: How to drive patient engagement and satisfaction." The session was part of Becker's Telehealth Virtual Forum on Nov. 2. 

The speakers were:

  • Nate Gladwell, the senior director and clinical operations officer at the University of Utah Health Care in Salt Lake City
  • Jim Weeast, the senior vice president and CIO at OhioHealth in Columbus
  • Lisa Finkelstein, DO, the medical director of telehealth at St. John's Health in Jackson, Wyo.

Here is an excerpt from the conversation, lightly edited for clarity. To view the full session on demand, click here.

Question: What is the most important lesson you have learned about digitally engaging patients amid the pandemic?

Nate Gladwell: The most important lesson learned is you have to make the workflow very simple for patients. As we began serving our patients with our Press Ganey tool for patient satisfaction, that continued to be the No. 1 point of feedback. The process has to be easy for the patients just like anything else. For example, you can book a car with an app. For the consumer, that experience is very simple with a few clicks in the app. Behind the scenes, the complexity is extreme and immense. It's key to get those workflows and operations dialed in on the clinic side so that the patient-facing side is as easy as possible.

Jim Weeast: You have to pay attention to both the qualitative data and the quantitative. You've got to measure what's going on inside that app and when people choose to leave the app. What we found is if you put them into a virtual waiting room, that's not a great experience for the patient. Similar to no-shows across healthcare, no-shows can happen in telemedicine too if you don't keep that seamless, if you don't keep the patient informed on what's going on. Then, for physician workflows, that information has to be integrated into their EHR. You can't have a disconnect between the EHR workflow and what's going on inside the telemedicine visit.

Dr. Lisa Finkelstein: Patients don't always understand what a virtual house call is. They may be driving, they may be shopping. A challenge is to get the patients to understand that they should be at home in a private room, have the technology ready and maybe get a family member to join. People tend to say, "Well, older people can't do it." That's not necessarily true. We're finding challenges we thought we would have with patients who are older than 50 but the reality is it goes across all spectrums. In addition to challenges of internet capability, do people have cellphones? Do they even have email? All of these things are starting to come to light.

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